North Carolina State University instructors may be handing out a lot of make-up exams in the days ahead as an outbreak of norovirus is keeping dozens of students confined to their bathrooms or hooked up to IVs in local emergency rooms.
Health officials say the norovirus outbreak started on Dec. 5 and continues to infect students. As of Thursday, Dec. 7, the virus was confirmed in about 60 students, most of whom live in the Alexander Hall dorm complex. However, students in living in other areas both on and off campus also have been sickened.
The outbreak hit during final exams week, when students are cramming to take their comprehensive finals, boost their grades, and complete the semester.
NCSU’s Student Health Services and the Wake County Human Services Department are working to mitigate the outbreak by advising students and faculty on measures they can take to protect themselves from the extremely virulent bug.
Norovirus is an extremely contagious virus that causes gastrointestinal distress, including stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Fever, chills, headache and fatigue are also commonly reported norovirus symptoms.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that norovirus is easily spread from person to person, through contaminated food and water, and by contact with contaminated surfaces. Norovirus is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks in the U.S. and so infectious because it takes just 10 norovirus particles to make someone sick.
Many norovirus outbreaks are traced to restaurants and other establishments that prepare and serve food. The virus is also known to infect cruise ships, as just one sick passenger or crew member can infect several others, who can in turn infect several more people.
NCSU’s Student Health Services is asking infected students to stay in their dorms for the duration of their illness to help reduce exposures. The university is providing “wellness kits,” containing liquids and easy-to-digest foods to the sickened students, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.